Teacher and Substitute Shortages in Washington State
School district human resource directors and principals across Washington
report that it is becoming increasing difficult to find K–12 certificated
teachers not only in areas that have experienced shortages for many years (e.g.,
special education, mathematics, science), but also teachers with elementary
education (Grades K–8) and Early Childhood (Birth–Grade 3) endorsements.
Human Resource Director and Principal Surveys
In fall 2016, a survey of school District Human Resource Directors on the
teacher and substitute shortage was conducted by OSPI in collaboration with the
Washington Personnel Association. A total of 113 directors responded,
representing approximately 38% of the state’s school districts.
Human Resource Directors were asked about their ability to hire qualified
certificated candidates for their teaching positions. Of those who responded,
23% indicated that they were in “crisis”, 74% stated that they were “struggling,
but getting by”, and 2.7% said they were doing “fine”.
When asked to compare the challenge in finding certificated teachers and
substitutes this fall compared to last fall, 73% indicated that it was “more” or
“much more” challenging, 23% stated it was about the “same”, and 4% indicated it
was “less challenging”.
A survey of principals also was conducted in Fall 2016. The findings of this survey reflected the finding from the Human Resource Director’s survey.
Factors Causing the Shortage
The shortage is a result of a number of factors, including:
- Implementation of state-funding for full-day kindergarten,
- Continued phase-in of K–3 class size reduction funding,
- An increase in school district hiring of teachers since the “Great
- Increased retirements of the “baby-boomer” generation,
- Enrollment growth, and
- A smaller number of individuals completing teacher preparation programs
relative to past.
Based on an analysis completed by OSPI in January 2016, the estimated annual shortfall in needed teachers is expected to be approximately 3,500 teachers annually if current trends continue.
2016 Recent Legislation
The 2016 Legislature passed legislation intended to address the teacher shortage
problem. SB 6455 provides one-time funding for a recruitment campaign, a
recruitment website, and additional grants and scholarships for new teachers. A
state-wide depository for teacher employment applications is to be created and
more funding also was provided for increasing the availability of mentors for
beginning teachers in order to increase retention. In addition, a change in law
was made to allow retired teaches to serve as substitute teachers for a portion
of the school year without losing their retirement benefits. These initiatives
are currently being implemented and their level of success in reducing the
shortage will be evident in the fall of 2017 and beyond.